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Various points of interest (or not)

George List was an emeritus faculty member for the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology here at IU. He retired in 1976, the year I was born, but still had an office and an assistant here. I first spoke to him over the phone in April, when I started working here at the Archives of Traditional Music; I met him for the first of three times in August. He was ninety-seven years old, he was frail, he was blind, he had been a widower for “seven long years” as he put it, and he had even outlived his son. Despite all of that, he was sharp as a tack, very active mentally, perfectly articulate. He was also clearly very lonely. He made a big impression on me the three times I got to meet him, perhaps more than I realize even now.

He passed away on Sunday, 28 September. It’s affected me this week a lot more than I thought it would — I even had a dream about him a couple of nights ago, although I don’t really remember much about it, beyond wanting to say goodbye in person and trying go back in time a couple of days by crossing the international date line. Aionia mneme.

Sometimes there are these fortuitous moments of synchronicity that tell you you were supposed to do something. Megan has been toying with the idea of getting an iPod for a little while, and I finally decided it was time to take the plunge and call it a late birthday present (my regular readers, both of them, may recall that I was in New York and she had just arrived in Germany on her birthday; I was so discombobulated that I didn’t remember to say “Happy birthday”, and she was so discombobulated that she didn’t notice). So we bought one of the new 120gb iPod Classics yesterday (it was $250; for reference, my 80gb Classic was $350 a year and a half ago), and after paying for it, the guy behind us in line, noticing we had bought a different pair of earbuds, asked us, “Hey, do you want the earbuds that come with that?”

We shrugged and said, “No, not really.”

“Can I buy them from you for $10?” He was about to spend $30 or some such on a replacement pair — seemed fair to us, and appeared to be one of those moments where the timing just worked out the way it was supposed to.

Of course, once we got home, we realized that we had also given him the USB cable. Oh well — keeps us humble.

Me, Bryn, and some guy at Jeff Fletcher's wedding, 12 September 2005A year ago today my friend Bryn Patrick Martin passed away from a bad reaction to painkillers. It was a stupid way to go and entirely preventable; I’m still mad at him. He was a constant, and I mean a constant, in my life between 1993 and 2003; this picture of him and me smoking cigars (can’t remember who the guy on the far left was) was taken the last time I saw him, 12 September 2003. His devilish smile (and overall countenance), obscene sense of humor, and most of all his fierce loyalty to the people about whom he cared remain very much missed. Aionia mneme.

I note among the stats for the last few days that for the first time ever I’ve received a hit off of a Google search for “Richard Barrett.” Exactly how this works I’m not sure, since last time I checked, I think it was the 15th page of results before this blog popped up, so the searcher in question must have been very persistent. Not that I care about my Google rank, exactly, but I do hope that people don’t see all of the matches on the first several pages for the white supremacist Richard Barrett and think that’s me. (If he had any idea who I was, he’d probably hope people didn’t get us confused, too.) If people want to think I’m the English composer or the motivational speaker, that’s probably okay. (Maybe not the R&B pioneer or the minor-league Depression-era Seattle baseball player, since they’re both dead.)

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2 Responses to “Various points of interest (or not)”


  1. 1 Jonathan 6 October 2008 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for sharing Richard. Your story of George List was very touching indeed.


  1. 1 Reasons I love my job « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 7 May 2009 at 11:20 pm

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